While our students come from diverse backgrounds and are pursuing degrees in different fields, the one thing that they all have in common is that they end up here at Salus. We wanted to feature a few of our student ambassadors about their experience transitioning into graduate school because everyone’s got a unique Salus story.

This is the second chapter of a three-part series, featuring:

Rachelle YangRachelle Yang
  • Second-year Optometry student
  • From Naperville, Illinois
  • Undergrad at University of Wisconsin, Madison 

Katie VangKatie Vang
  • Second-year Optometry student
  • From Hickory, North Carolina
  • Undergrad at East Carolina University 

Lauren FuricchiaLauren Furicchia
  • Third-year Optometry student
  • From Miami, Florida
  • Undergrad at Florida International University and Northern Arizona University

Q: Are you a part of the peer mentoring program at all in any way?

Rachelle: Yes. I have a mentor. And I was a mentee. So she was really nice and helpful. Especially when practicals started rolling around. She would be like “hey if you need me to watch you in the lab while you’re practicing, please just send me a text.” That was really nice and helpful.

A: In your experience, what’s the hardest part of grad school?

Lauren: For me, personally, the hardest part was being more independent and realizing that you have to manage your time better. I think a lot of people struggle being away from home for so long. In undergrad, you had a lot more breaks. Here, yes you get Thanksgiving off, but usually there’s an exam right when you come back from Thanksgiving. So it’s not recommended to go home for Thanksgiving. So, the feeling that you’re here and that you don’t have the support, even though they are supporting you from far away, I think that was the hardest part. Trying to be more independent, and not visiting my family every break. And realizing that sometimes school needs to come first and your family and your friends from back home will understand. They know that it’s only four years that you’re sacrificing and you give up social things to do good in school, but at the end of things, it will pay off.

Katie: I agree, I think being far away from home was one of the hardest parts about starting grad school, because family is really important. They are usually your support system, and who you are going for. Sometimes they are not there for you because of school, so that’s tough but you learn how to adapt.

Rachelle: The hardest part for me was balancing school and having a social life. I found that after the end of my first semester, I really needed to start taking time for myself, otherwise, just studying all the time, and stressing out, can get over your head a little bit. One thing, my roommate and I do, every Friday, after classes, we take Friday as our break day. So we will come home and relax and watch a movie or we will go out to eat and we pride? On that time because otherwise we would go crazy without that time. It’s really really important to take some time for yourself, even if it’s just an hour or two a day, watching an episode while you eat dinner, because eating is important to. Or exercising for an hour, which will help you get through the tough times through grad school.

Q: What’s the best part about being in grad school?

Katie: I think the friendships you build over time, because I know when I first started school here, it was really hard being far away from home. I didn’t know anybody, I came here by myself. My parents dropped me off and they left. So I was like “what do I do now?” But Salus was really good with their orientation program and how they tried to get you to know your classmates. So I think that was one of the best things. The friendships that I have made throughout the years, and how close they’ve become. They are pretty much like my sisters, almost like my family, so I think that was one of the best parts about here.

Rachelle: One of my favorite parts is actually loving the material that we’re learning. I know during undergrad, we had to take all of these English courses and business classes, just to meet the requirements for graduation and my degree. A lot of those classes, I wasn’t really interested in, but now that I’m in optometry school, a lot of what we learn is really going to pertain to my actual job in the future and I really love learning about the eyes and how we are going to make a difference in our patient’s lives. That’s one thing I love, the learning aspect, because it’s actually something that I want to learn.

Lauren: For me it would also be the friendships and the opportunities. In undergrad, I feel like you just stay where you are. Here, there’s so much more diversity. There’s annual meetings in different fields. Optometry has two annual meetings every year. So I have gone to Washington, D.C., Orlando, Florida, Texas, there’s one in Canada next year… it’s really interesting to go to those places, and school will give you that time off, excused, to meet with professionals in that field and get to see how they made it in their field, how they started, and it’s really cool. In undergrad, you didn’t get as many of those opportunities. It was only when a professional came to the school and it wasn’t very one-on-one. At these annual meetings, you can talk one-on-one with the doctors and learn more and it really helps you figure out what field you want to end up in. I really like the branching opportunities that optometry offers.